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ASUS made a Nintendo Switch and I'm not even mad

Asus' new ROG Kunai Gamepad is effectively a Nintendo Switch, and you know what? I'm not mad about it.

Published onJuly 23, 2019

ASUS ROG Phone 2 gaming on Kunai gamepad adapter from behind
ROG Kunai Gamepad

ASUS made a Nintendo Switch.

Ok, no. It’s not a separate console. ASUS made an attachment for the new ROG Phone 2 that turns the phone into a Nintendo Switch. If you don’t believe me, look at these pictures of the new accessory.

See those controllers? At ASUS’ press event in Taipei last week, the presenter called them “Joycons.” Yes, the accessory is technically called the ROG Kunai Gamepad, but just look at the resemblance. I don’t think anyone can deny that this is what ASUS was going for. From the detachable controllers to the optional grip, these are nearly 1:1 with Nintendo’s popular console. And you know what, I’m not even mad about it.

Convenience, taken up a notch

ASUS ROG Phone 2 with accessories

The whole point of the Nintendo Switch is convenience. Now, you don’t need a home console for your TV and a separate portable console for on-the-go. With the Switch, you get both, in one streamlined package. The name is literally based on this concept ⁠— a portable handheld on the go that switches to a home console when you get back. You can’t get more convenient than that, can you?

Well, it turns out you can. Your phone is the gaming console you always have on you, and if you could convert that into a Switch in an instant, wouldn’t you? While the Nintendo Switch isn’t exactly big and bulky, your phone is going to be on your person regardless. Just carry the case and controllers and you’re good to go.

Phone to console in one swift click

And yes, I understand the Nintendo Switch is about the Nintendo ecosystem. You’re not going to be playing Zelda Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey on your ROG Phone 2 anytime soon. But there are some seriously fun games on mobile, too. Add that to the fact that emulators are pretty great at playing older titles like those from the Gameboy Color and even the 3DS, and you’ve got a new world of opportunity in your hands.

More power to ya

ASUS ROG Phone 2 Gaming from back angle lens flare

And as it turns out, the ASUS ROG Phone 2 is vastly more powerful than the Nintendo Switch. Heck, the Adreno 630 found in last year’s Snapdragon 845 was already faster than the Switch’s NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor. The Adreno 640 in the Snapdragon 855 is about 19 percent faster than the 630 in the 845, and the new Snapdragon 855 Plus features a 15 percent overclock on top. Many Switch games are locked at 30fps 720p undocked. With the Snapdragon 855 Plus, graphics and performance will be far superior.

The last thing HUAWEI should do is compare the Mate 20 X with the Nintendo Switch
HUAWEI Mate 20 X launch vs Nintendo Switch

I know, I know. The Switch isn’t about graphics quality. Nintendo has all but completely ignored the console “realism” war in exchange for pure fun. And you know what, it’s done a pretty fine job. But if you’re someone who wants a good mix of high-end graphics and good frame rates, the mobile gaming ecosystem is expanding, fast. Games like RGPR, Shadowgun Legends, and others look pretty fantastic and should run great at 1080p resolution on the ROG Phone 2.

The controllers aren’t great.. but they’re an improvement

At the press event for the ROG Phone 2, I got some time to check out the ROG Kunai controllers for myself. Compared to last year’s gamepad for the ROG Phone 1, these are a huge step in the right direction. They’re slimmer, have more buttons, and feel like a more complete package versus the first generation prototypes we saw last gen. There are almost too many buttons on these things, with macros in nearly every nook and cranny. Unfortunately, what kills these for me is the feel of the buttons and triggers.

Add better buttons and I'm all in

Now, these were probably pre-production units, but after trying the gamepad at the event in Taiwan, I came away unimpressed. The buttons were mushy, with little feedback, and the triggers were rigid and difficult to actuate. ASUS is so close to getting the form factor right on these things, but it really needs to put work into making this gamepad a premium experience. I won’t pretend the Nintendo Switch has the best joysticks I’ve ever used. But the buttons and triggers feel great, and, as much of a meme as “feel in the hand” is in the smartphone community, I want these things to feel good. ASUS says ROG phone owners game an average of 45 minutes a day on their phone, and if you’re one of these people, you want the experience to be comfortable.

FYI, ASUS made a 3DS too

ASUS ROG Phone 2 TwinView Dock II on table
TwinView Dock II

Oh right, I almost forgot. ASUS also introduced a new accessory called the TwinView Dock II that adds a second screen above your phone and turns it into a sort of clamshell. The design is quite similar to a beefed-up 3DS, and you can even attach the Kunai gamepad controllers I talked about earlier. This makes for a fantastic 3DS emulator, so pair that with a great 3DS game and you’re good to go.

It’s a bit funny to think that ASUS based both of these accessories on popular Nintendo consoles, but honestly, can you blame it? Both of Nintendo’s offerings sold like hotcakes, and the game ecosystem is second to none. If you can get a similar handheld experience out of your phone of all things, why wouldn’t you?

Gen three, anyone?

ASUS ROG Phone 2 rear straignt on

The entire accessory ecosystem ASUS introduced with the ROG Phone 2 is a huge step in the right direction. All its generation-two products are slimmer, with more connectivity options like Bluetooth and WiFi Direct. But generation three is what I’m really excited about. If we see as big an improvement in the next generational leap as we did here, I think the ROG Phone 3 accessories could be huge for mobile gaming.

Ultimately, it’s up to ASUS to continue and develop its suite of accessories. Without knowing sales numbers, it’s hard to try and predict just how much incentive ASUS has to keep building these things. The ROG brand is pretty huge overall, ranging from dedicated GPUs to monitors, keyboards and mice. If ASUS can convert a decent number of the brand’s fans to the new ROG Phone 2, I’ve got hope the third generation of accessories will be a hit.

If you want to check out all the other accessories ASUS is launching with the ROG Phone 2, head over to our hands-on here. What do you think about gaming accessories for smartphones? Are they a gimmick, or actually useful?

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